Book Manuscript // Primitive Picturesque: Networks of Ainu Representation at the Turn-of-the-Twentieth Century (In Preparation)

Book Manuscript
In Preparation

Romanticized by anthropologists as a lone Caucasoid race surrounded by Mongoloid peoples, the Ainu–an indigenous people from the northern extents of the Japanese archipelago–fascinated turn-of-the-century tourists, artists, and intellectuals. Suffering from an insatiable Wanderlust produced by Japan’s rapid modernization, explorers traveled to Hokkaido in search of an “authentic” native experience beyond the Western treaty ports of Yokohama and Hakodate. For some, these “hairy” indigenous people epitomized the exotic; for others, the ethnic ambiguity of the Ainu embodied a fantasy of aboriginal whiteness. This book surveys the images represented in explorers’ reports, travel memories, world’s fair press releases, and indigenous publications to understand the complex network of visual imagery that formed a consistent stereotype of the Ainu as the primitive picturesque. Each chapter interrogates the images used, collected, or produced by one of the many figures who rotated in and out of the lives of the Biratori Ainu and Reverend John Batchelor, a missionary to Hokkaido who often served a gatekeeper of knowledge about the Ainu in Anglophone countries. Beginning with chapters on British explorer Isabella Bird, American novelist Edward Greey, and British/Italian artist Arnold Henry Savage Landor, Part One examines the visual culture of English-speaking travelers and the consolidation of Biratori village as a destination site in the tourist imagination. Part Two moves on to consider the role of images in early 20th century anthropology with a focus on American anthropologist Frederick Starr, the Ainu participants of the St. Louis Exposition, Japanese anthropologist Oyabe Jenichiro, and American photographers Arnold Genthe and Jessie Tarbox Beals. Part Three reflects back onto the illustrated publications of Batchelor himself, and examines the work produced by Ainu illustrator Katahira Tomijiro and Ainu author Takekuma Tokusaburo. These latter two figures demonstrate how the indigenous community of Biratori dealt with the proliferation of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century stereotypes in light of conflicting views on assimilation in an increasingly militarized Japan. All chapters take an interdisciplinary approach to the visual analysis and theorization of the picturesque in photography and illustration, and focus on the changing modes of image production and circulation between Japan and the the West. Embedded throughout the volume are comparative examples that examine Ainu representation in light of that of other indigenous cultures, such as the the Maori in New Zealand, Inuit cultures in Canada, and Polynesian culture in Hawai’i. As a result, this study will be of interest to not only to scholars of indigenous studies, visual studies/art history, and Japanese and American studies, but also students and popular readers eager to learn how native stereotypes are visually forged at home and abroad.

Photo: Taken by author of an exhibit at the Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum in the northern outskirts of Biratori-cho.


November 14, 2017

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Christina M. Spiker | Book Manuscript // Primitive Picturesque: Networks of Ainu Representation at the Turn-of-the-Twentieth Century (In Preparation)
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